- Posted By: Mandi Bottoms
- Written by: Kiera Butler is the articles editor at Mother Jones
For the past few weeks, I've been blogging about the two heritage turkeys that my friends and I have been raising in our backyard. But our turkeys aren't Berkeley natives. They spent the first ten days of their lives on the Thode Family Farm in Sebastopol, California. There, the four Thode kids raise dozens of turkeys every year for a collaboration between their 4-H club and the local Slow Foods chapter. Back in September, I visited the farm to learn more about this cool partnership.
The turkey whisperer above is Zach Thode. A soft-spoken 21-year-old, Zach is the veteran turkey farmer of the family. Seven years ago, he and a few friends began raising heritage turkeys for their 4-H club. Through the club, the kids tried to sell their birds for Thanksgiving, but they had a marketing problem: Their customers wondered why they should pay $7.50 a pound when supermarket turkeys cost a fraction of that. "People didn't understand that organic feed costs more, and so does giving them enough space to live in," Zach told me. "Plus, we raise our birds for six months, whereas most supermarket birds only take three months or less to get to slaughter weight."
But then, Slow Food Russian River got wind of the project. "We were so impressed with how these kids were raising their birds," says Jim Reichert, a poultry farmer and member of SFRR. "We wanted to support the project." It was a natural match: The 4-H club had the birds, and Slow Food had the network of foodies to buy them. The project has grown every year since. This year, 11 kids raised 225 birds. Project leader Catherine Thode expects some kids to earn upwards of $1,000. (A few years ago, Zach used his earnings to buy a used pick-up truck.)
By now, Zach has aged out of 4-H, but he still helps out with the project. "I like the 4-H community," he says. "It's a tight group of people." We got to talking about 4-H's corporate sponsorship, a topic I am kind of obsessed with. I asked Zach if he knew that agribusiness giants like Monsanto, Cargill, John Deere, and Philip Morris USA sponsored the club. He shrugged and said it made sense. "The shift from rural to urban living means that very few people want to work in agriculture," he said. "So these companies have to invest in the youth. There is a danger of farms disappearing."
Right. The number of farms in the US has been declining steadily for decades, and as my colleague Tom Philpott recently reported, young farmers say they lack the capital to start new farms. The good news, though, is that direct sales of local foods are on the rise.
"Especially around where we live in California, there really is a growing market for meat that was organically raised nearby, in a humane way," says Catherine Thode. "It is a great fit for 4-H animals, since the kids spend so much time and effort raising them right, but I don't know if it would catch on everywhere else."
There's some evidence that other 4-H clubs are becoming interested in organic and local food: In Pennsylvania, there's this award for organic 4-H projects. In Oregon, this program helps schools start "sustainable living" clubs. A Google search revealed that a bunch of 4-H clubs now offer organic gardening. But when I searched the official 4-H site, I couldn't find any official organic or local initiatives. The club hasn't returned my request for an interview yet, but I'm curious to know whether there's anything in the works.
In the meantime, the Thodes, like me, are getting for this year's slaughter. But unlike me, they haven't made the mistake of getting to know their birds. "At this point, I make sure they are treated well, but I don't really get attached," says Zach's 16-year-old sister Janelle. "There are just so many of them." Spoken like a true farmer.
- Author: Mandi Bottoms
Posted by Luana Xiong, 14, Merced County, CA, on October 5, 2010 at 10:37 AM
My name is Luana Xiong. I am 14 years old and part of Merced County 4-H in California. I have been in 4-H for five years. Some of the projects I do in 4-H include photography and arts and crafts, but the one part of 4-H that I absolutely love is science.
National Youth Science Day has become an important aspect of 4-H. It has created so many opportunities for youth to learn about science and learn about 4-H. I have had the enjoyment of experiencing National Youth Science Day for the past two years. I have led and conducted both experiments each year. My goal out of leading these experiments was to pass my knowledge to others. This year I do not plan on taking the lead in the experiment 4-H2O, but I do plan on participating this year and learning more. My county plans on holding the event during National 4-H week.
I am interested because I love science and getting to learn anything about science is a great opportunity for me because I want to go into a science career. I want to become a cardiovascular surgeon so that I can help people. I chose this career because I have an interest in hearts and how they work. It fascinates me very much. I also want to be a doctor because of my culture. I am Hmong and the elderly Hmong people don’t really understand science or medical problems. I want to be the person who understands the culture, but also the science that is involved when they are sick.
Science is complicated and easy to understand at the same time, but it is also there to explain events. I think science is very important for youth to learn about because they should know that it affects them every single day and that they also affect science. Science is what keeps our feet to the ground and creates the possible discoveries for cures.
I just happen to love science a lot. My brain seems to always be starving for knowledge./span>
Ventura County Star
By Marjorie Hernandez
Posted August 3, 2009 at 12:01 a.m.
Randall Smalls smiled as he carefully cut slits in a small packet of potable soil and inserted a handful of seeds.
“It’s going to be a Chinese garden,” Randall, 9, said as he gently pushed the seeds of Chinese chives jiu cai and gau choy into the soil. “When they grow, you will get to see how pretty they get. I’m excited.”
On a recent Thursday at the Port Hueneme Youth Center at Naval Base Ventura County, about 20 second- and third-graders learned some basic skills to start their own vegetable gardens during a visit by Susan Gloeckler, the Ventura County 4-H youth development supervisor.
The workshop was part of a new initiative to create 4-H programs at U.S. military bases across the world, Gloeckler said.
“The whole idea to put 4-H in the military bases is so that when parents get transferred to another base, there will be another program the children can feel at home with,” she said.
In Ventura County, children who attended summer camps at the base’s Port Hueneme and Point Mugu youth centers participated in various 4-H exercises and visited local farms.
Stacey Tamai, youth program leader at Point Mugu, said the children have already finished several 4-H projects, including a “pizza and salsa garden” filled with vegetables and fruits used to make those two dishes.
“It’s a good mix of hands-on projects as well as discussion in a classroom setting,” Tamai said.
The kids get hands-on experience and are taught by Gloeckler and volunteers from local 4-H clubs.
“It makes the children think about the process and where their food comes from,” said Amber Melendez, the base’s Port Hueneme youth director. “This gives them a complete experience.”
Glen Sanders, a graduate of the UC Cooperative Extension’s master gardener program, visited the children at Port Hueneme and talked about the “hamburger plant.” In this exercise, Sanders led the young gardeners as they explored the agricultural roots of the contents of a burger— buns, meat and vegetables.
Gloeckler showed the kids a long piece of celery and described how each part can be consumed.
The children were then treated to their own small cup of salad and ranch dressing.
“They even asked for seconds ... when do you see that?” Gloeckler said.
The children also lit up when they received some special visitors — Remy, a gray and white mini-lop rabbit, and Hogan, a tricolored mini-rex rabbit.
Jenean Bass and daughter Brenda, volunteers for the Conejo Valley 4-H, brought the rabbits to the camp and taught the children about differences between the two.
“It’s important that kids interact with animals, and 4-H provides kids that opportunity,” said Brenda Bass, now a student at UC Davis. “It gives city kids a different perspective.”
Western Farm Press
Oct 1, 2009 10:40 AM
Biofuel Blast will teach youth how cellulose and sugars in plants – such as corn, switchgrass, sorghum and algae – can be converted into fuel and how these alternative energies can be used in their own communities. http://westernfarmpress.com/news/biofuel-blast-1001/
Author: Chris M. Webb
Friday March 5 2010
Did you know that using a pencil, a basic pinwheel made from paper, some tape, three paper clips, a piece of string and some wind (provided by household fan) that you could actually hoist a paper cup filled with about a dozen pennies, almost three feet off of the ground?